Holidays to Galle, Sri Lanka

James Emerson Tennent, Queen Victoria’s colonial secretary in Ceylon, once claimed Galle as the ancient and legendary seaport of Tarshish from which King Solomon drew ivory, peacocks and other treasures. Whether he was correct will probably never be known, but what is certain is that Galle has played a highly significant role in the history of Sri Lanka since ancient times. Galle now stands as the finest (and largest) example of a European fortified city in the whole of Southeast Asia, and is a must-see for anyone visiting the island.

Known as Gimhathiththa until the Portuguese arrived in 1505, it was the main port on the island for much of its history, and may even have been the point through which the export of cinnamon was conducted – a trade that can be dated back as far as 1400BC. The arrival of the Portuguese ships was, in fact, a complete fluke; they were blown off course on their way to the Maldives, but liked what they saw at Galle and elsewhere.

Their dominance lasted until 1640, when the Dutch East India Company ousted the Portuguese and started construction of the present fort – replacing the existing earth and timber palisades – to prevent the same happening to them. Built with solid granite walls and consisting of 14 bastions, it is an awesome structure. The British, who replaced the Dutch as a colonial presence in 1796, maintained it unchanged, and when the 2004 tsunami hit, Galle fort emerged unscathed. It is now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This is a big, bustling, unique city, with a whole life of its own to explore. Just four of its landmarks – St. Mary's Cathedral, founded by Jesuit priests, Sri Meenadchi Sundareswarar Temple, one of the main Hindu temples on the island, the stunning International Buddhist Centre and the small but exquisite Meeran Mosque in the Galle Fort area – stand as testament to the city’s story and diverse heritage.

If you want to be assured of quality sun time on the beach and a calm and flat sea, choose a southern or western beach from December through to April. Southern and western beaches generally have good weather from late July to September, but sea swimming is rarely safe at this time.

Highlights

  • The most outstanding example of a fortified city in all South and Southeast Asia

  • Head inland for safaris with leopards, crocodiles and elephants

Galle trip ideas

Here are some trip ideas that include Galle. All of our trip ideas shown below are examples, and we’ll amend, adapt or start from scratch, until we’ve created the perfect trip for you. See one you like, or have a trip in mind? Call us now to book: 020 3510 5777

Things to do in Galle

Here are some of the things you can do in Galle. When you've chosen your favourite experiences, just give our Travel Designers a call and they'll put a trip together for you. If you need help choosing an experience, or if you want to learn more about it, our Travel Designers will be more than happy to talk to you. Just call them on: 020 3510 5777

Map of Galle